I was recently at a meeting about squash in the U.S. when the talk turned to the sport's fortunes elsewhere. Someone said the situation in Australia was bad, as real estate pressures have caused many clubs to shut down entirely or convert large squash courts into fitness centers. The same is true, to a somewhat lesser extent perhaps, in the U.K. Someone else complained that clubs were closing down in Canada, and the national squash organization there seems too disorganized to do anything effective about it.
Bad news, then, on several fronts. But the good news, at least for us in the U.S., is that squash is on the ascendancy. The US Squash association, under Kevin Klipstein's remarkable leadership, has in the last 5 years ratcheted up membership by 80%; doubled the number of national championships to 20 and increased participant numbers to 5000; spearheaded the US High School Championships, now the largest squash tournament in the world, with 125 teams and 1000 players; and increased junior squash participation numbers by 88%. And in what I predict will be a continuing trend for the foreseeable future, the Men's and Women's national adult and junior teams are making steady progress in world rankings.
The US Squash organization has also improved its own governance significantly and has demonstrated its desire to hear from as many voices as possible on how best to further the U.S. game. The association will host the inaugural U.S. Squash "Annual Assembly" this October 1-2 in Chicago, which can be attended by any interested player and will include a keynote address, the presentation of programs for the 2010-2011 season, topical breakout sessions on various programs, and constituency breakout sessions covering districts, pros, coaches and referees.
All in all, great news, about which the US Squash association should be proud. That there are still those out there who don't see the value in forking over a couple of bucks to support their sport's association remains a puzzlement.